Refuting The View: Religion Is A Myth, But Science Is The Truth


Doug Groothuis

Article ID:



May 29, 2024


May 22, 2024

 Cultural Critique and Back to Basics Apologetics Column

When you  support the Journalyou join the team and help provide the resources at that minister to people worldwide. These resources include our ever-growing database of more than 2,000 articles, as well as our free Postmodern Realities podcast.

Another way you can support our online articles is by leaving us a tip. A tip is just a small amount, like $3, $5, or $10, which is the cost of a latte, lunch out, or coffee drink. To leave a tip, click here

​The idea that “Religion is a myth, but Science is the truth” encapsulates the thinking of many people today and locks religion and science into mortal combat in which science always kills its religious enemy. It looks like this. Religious beliefs have no basis in objective reality and are mythological. Science, on the other hand, traffics in truth based on empirical evidence. Religious beliefs can never be verified, since they concern an invisible realm beyond science populated by God, gods, angels, demons, and other things that go bump in the night. Science, however, investigates what is tangible — the space-time world of matter and energy; its methods of analysis are time-tested and reliable. If you want an illness diagnosed and treated, you go to a medical doctor, trained in science, and not to a witch doctor, who casts spells and contacts spirits. Thus, religious beliefs are, at best, harmless delusions and, at worst, dangerous falsehoods. But we should backtrack several steps to locate the heart of the controversy and even seek peace between true religion and genuine science. Might science even favor a particular religion?


Religions are sacred traditions comprised of several elements, including history, ritual, ethics, and doctrine. What distinguishes a religious belief system (or worldview) from a secular belief system is the belief in a supernatural or sacred realm. For monotheism, the ultimate reality is a personal Creator who is transcendent of the creation but also involved in it in guiding history and sending prophets. For pantheistic religions (such as major schools within Hinduism and Buddhism), the ultimate reality is an impersonal and infinite principle or substance that is intuited by mystics, but finally beyond words. Buddhists may or may not be pantheistic, but all believe in nirvana, an impersonal state in which there is no suffering.

I will address religion’s doctrinal aspect and its conceptual relationship to what we can know about reality through science. My claim is that the best large-scale scientific theories confirm significant aspects of monotheism but refute basic aspects of non-monotheistic religions. This is because religions make some truth claims that overlap with truth claims from science, although much lies beyond what science can determine. But before pursuing that, we must discuss the nature and limits of science in its attempts to explain nature accurately.


The nature of science itself is not determined by any one science, either a hard science (such as physics or chemistry) or a social science (such as sociology or psychology). It is rather a question for the philosophy of science, and is, in fact, contested. To begin, we rule out a false definition of science that claims that science is the only way to attain knowledge. This is called scientism, which is the claim that the methods and results of science alone can confer knowledge and that this knowledge will be limited to the physical universe.1

If we want to know about atoms, we consult science and not any religion, but the theory that science is the only conduit for knowledge is self-refuting and, therefore, false. The statement, “science is the only way to find knowledge,” is not justified by any scientific discovery. It is a philosophical statement and one that is further refuted by knowledge available completely outside of scientific investigation, such as moral claims. These include, “Torturing the innocent for pleasure is morally wrong”; “Female genital mutilation is always morally wrong”; and “Mother Teresa was a better person morally than Adolf Hitler.”2

Another error about science needs refutation since it would eliminate some knowledge artificially and illogically. This culprit is methodological naturalism, the claim that science is limited to naturalistic explanations for all natural phenomena. The influential tract, Humanist Manifesto II (1973), put it this way in a priori fashion: “Nature may indeed be broader and deeper than we now know; any new discoveries, however, will but enlarge our knowledge of the natural.”3 While science addresses the workings of the natural world (and not the province of angels and demons, for example), there is no reason to silence conclusions about the supernatural drawn from the natural world. This especially obtains concerning singular events, such as the beginning of the universe and the origin of life on Earth, which science addresses forensically, since these are not reoccurring events that can be detected as happening now (such as chemical reactions). Another word for forensic investigations of singularities in nature is origin science.4 Consider the origin of the cosmos.


Several lines of converging evidence have led most physicists to believe that the universe began to exist from nothing a finite time ago. As the evidence built up for several decades after Einstein’s general theory of relativity (1917), many physicists resisted the conclusion, since it challenged the naturalistic notion of an eternal universe, which would need no God to create it. Nevertheless, a cumulative case developed for the Big Bang, as it is popularly called. Those committed to methodological naturalism must resist the conclusion that anything supernatural created the universe, although this is a rational conclusion from the following argument:

  1. The universe began to exist.
  2. Anything that begins to exist must have a cause. This is a commonsense philosophical principle.
  3. Therefore (a) the universe began to exist.
  4. Therefore (b) the cause of the universe is outside the universe — a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, and immensely powerful agent.
  5. This cause of the universe is best identified as the God of monotheism.5

Some naturalists are so desperate to resist this supernatural conclusion that they have claimed that the universe came into existence out of nothing by nothing. Locked in the grip of methodological naturalism, they prefer anything — even nothing itself — to any supernatural explanation. Philosopher Dallas Willard called this “‘big bang’ mysticism.”6 To make this claim also violates the venerable principle of sufficient reason, which stipulates that any positive state has some reason for its existence (whether we know it or not).7

If we abandon methodological naturalism as a knowledge-stultifying epistemology, then we conclude that there is scientific evidence for a Being who created the universe out of nothing (creation ex nihilo). This claim refutes any worldview (religious or otherwise) that affirms the eternality of the universe. Atheism is refuted (whether it claims an eternal universe or that it popped into existence by chance), as are non-monotheistic religions that deny creation, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism.

The three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — affirm divine creation out of nothing by a supernatural and personal God. Jews and Christians believe that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1; see also Psalm 33:6; 90:2),8 and Christians affirm that the Word (Logos) was the divine agent of creation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1–3). Muslims claim that Allah, “the God,” created the universe out of nothing as well, since the Qur’an teaches this. Therefore, if we refute scientism and methodological naturalism, we find that God is the best explanation for the beginning of the universe. We can know this without any appeal to any religious text, although the conclusion agrees with and lends support to monotheistic religions.


Creation of out nothing by God is not a myth, but a teaching of monotheism, which is backed up by the best science as well as by philosophical reasoning.9 I cannot canvass it here, but there are strong arguments that the universe was fine-tuned on a razor’s edge to allow for life by a divine Mind. There are simply far too many contingent facts about the universe — its laws, constants, and proportions — necessary for life for all this to have appeared by chance. So, again, monotheism receives strong support from science.10 If we deem the scientific evidence and philosophical reasoning cogent, then monotheism is established intellectually. The next step in reasoning is to ask if this Creator may have revealed Himself in history — through acts, prophets, books, or even by a personal appearance.

Deism teaches that a personal deity created and designed the universe but is not involved afterward. It deems moral intuition and human reasoning sufficient to guide life, and it rejects any supposed divinely inspired texts or any miracles wrought by God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, on the contrary, believe that God is not only a personal being who created and wound up the cosmic clock (the universe), but a God who sustains it providentially and continues to interact with it directly. Assessing these claims takes us from the study of nature (finding it created and designed) to the study of history.

I have addressed the claims of Judaism and Islam elsewhere,11 so this essay will make a case that the historical claims of Christianity are not mythical, but events of genuine history. But before we address that, there is one sense in which the gospel message of the Bible is mythical, if we take mythical to mean the fulfillment of a deep theme found throughout literature and in religion. C. S. Lewis was attracted to the world’s great mythologies and fantasies, but he did not deem them objectively true — that is, until he discerned the historical credibility of the New Testament and until his friend J. R. R. Tolkien explained that Christianity fulfilled all the great themes of mythology. Thus, Lewis wrote this in his classic essay, “Myth Became Fact”:

Now as myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the dying god, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens — at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle.12


Despite the Christian claim, summarized by Lewis, many religions trade on myths, either intentionally or unintentionally. The Hindu scriptures speak of various avatars who are periodic appearances of God, such as Krishna, the hero of the Bhagavad Gita. But these storis are not rooted in verifiable history and few Hindus take them to be. They are, rather, spiritual stories meant to inspire believers. There is no need for a “search for the historical Krisha,” as there is for the “historical Jesus” (whom we find smack dab in the Bible).

With Buddhism, what matters most is that Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment and became the Buddha, who then brought dharma as the way of enlightenment. While Buddhist scriptures speak of supernatural events surrounding the Buddha, these are not foundational for Buddhist doctrine or belief. Moreover, they were written hundreds of years after the death of Buddha and have no historical pedigree.13 But with Christianity, everything changes.

The Gospel of Luke begins by assuring us that the author thoroughly researched the life of Jesus so that we might have certainty in believing in Him (Luke 1:1–4). The apostle John informs us that he witnessed what he wrote about and that his testimony is true (John 21:24). All four Gospels speak of historical events in which Jesus is the lead character and which are written not long after the events they describe. These are not symbolic stories meant to trigger spiritual experiences but rather accounts of what happened in ancient Israel concerning Jesus of Nazareth. The apostle Peter sums it up: “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). But what is the story of Jesus?

The same God who created and designed the universe came to Earth in the person of Jesus in order to rescue humanity from their estrangement from God and neighbor. The following passage builds on the affirmation of the divine Word being the agent of creation:

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:9–13)

To “receive Jesus” means to believe that He died to atone for our sins and that He rose from the dead victorious over sin and death (John 3:16; Romans 1:3–4; 10:9–10). If we believe, we can receive Him, and become His born-again children (see John 3). Following Jesus, the apostle Paul emphasized that this salvation is entirely a gift of God’s grace. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9; see also Romans 5:1–8). This is the gospel or good news of Jesus Christ, and there it is factual, not fictional. Nor is there any final conflict between science and Christianity. The combination of scientific support for the existence of God with the historical support for the truth of Jesus as Lord and Savior renders Christianity deeply rational.14

Douglas Groothuis, PhD, is the author of Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. (InterVarsity-Academic, 2022) and, most recently, Beyond the Wager: The Christian Brilliance of Blaise Pascal (InterVarsity Academic, 2024).


  1. The second claim is usually implicit in scientism. It is explicated by methodological naturalism, which I take up below.
  2. For a refutation of scientism, see J. P. Moreland, Secularism and Scientism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018).
  3. Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson, Humanist Manifesto II (1973),
  4. See Norman Geisler and Kerby Anderson, Origin Science: A Proposal for the Evolution-Creation Controversy (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1987).
  5. On the singularity and personality of the First Cause, see Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity-Academic, 2022), 225–28.
  6. Dallas Willard, “Language, Being, God, and the Three Stages of Theistic Evidence,” Dallas Willard Ministries,
  7. See Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 204–209.
  8. Scripture quotations are from the NIV.
  9. On the impossibility of traversing an actual infinite number of moments, see Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 209–213.
  10. See Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, “The Fine-Tuning Argument.”
  11. See the chapters on Judaism and Islam in Douglas Groothuis, World Religions in Seven Sentences (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity-Academic, 2023).
  12. C. S. Lewis, “Myth Became Fact,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (1970; New York: HarperOne, 2014), 66–67, Kindle Edition.
  13. See the chapters on Hinduism and Buddhism in Groothuis, World Religions in Seven Sentences.
  14. For more on the total case for Christianity, see Groothuis, Christian Apologetics.
Share This